Wow. Are we having fun, yet, Phish fans? Holy moly! On Thursday, Phish set down one of the ballsiest, boldest, most innovative creative offerings of their storied thirty year career. The pressure is off and we are rounding the home stretch on what is arguably the best tour of the post-breakup era. Check that: in my opinion, we are easily, definitively, by a large measure witnessing the most consistently excellent, innovative, paradigm-breaking tour since the 1990s… we’re in the thick of artistic explosion that belongs in the discussion with August ‘93, December ‘95, summer and fall ‘97, or any other tour or era that you want to include in the conversation.
Given the magnitude and power of what is happening in the moment – and because I’ve been living a little large and am time pressured, again, sigh – I’m going to let these last few weeks settle and offer some hopefully coherent and reflective thoughts soon. So I’ve Tom Sawyer’d this recap with the help of my friends. Twenty plus years into this journey, and I’m as thrilled and jacked up about this band as I’ve ever been… the vibe reminds me of the afterglow of Big Cypress. This is it. Let go, enjoy it… take a look around you, give a good look to the people around you. There is a lot of love in the air, embrace it, give yourself to the moment. Music is the BEST!
Martin Acaster: We sat in my truck and listened to the show on the street corner outside the WOW Hall in Eugene while waiting for our daughter to emerge from the squealariffic and sweaty Hoodie Allen show feasting on cold pizza and chugging amp energy drinks. On the ride down from Portland "Under Pressure" came on the radio and I thought to myself… this would be a really cool song for Phish to play someday. You can imagine the holy shit chills I experienced during “Twist.” The band knows what I am thinking even when I am 3000 miles away. I chuckled at the “Halley's” > “Tube” juxtaposition… since they are now essentially the same song. Heard “Wombat” teases all over the place. That groove is so infectious. The Bush Kush freakout reminded me a lot of something Ed Zeppelin used to do on a couple of Dread Zeppelin tracks. Another winner… the Phish from Vermont is truly en Fuego.
Lily Morton: I am having too much fun at these shows and it is making me feel concerned that someone out in the world is not having as much happiness as I am now absorbing from the auditory bliss zone assembled here in Atlantic City. Last nights show was most stellar. I kept very organized notes and a setlist in the first set and enjoyed the first set thoroughly. My highlight of the first set was the great bluesy, funky “Jesus Just Left Chicago” with wonderful keyboard moments and awesome guitar groove. Love it! Happily, and I love it when this happens… I was unable to maintain a setlist in the second set because the music captured my attention so completely, I had no patience to keep track of my notebook and pen. My impression is… yes, yes! This is a good thing, overall and all together.
The second set rocked the business right into the necessary bliss zone balancing experimental traveling with audience familiar favorites. It seemed to me that the band was absolutely synched with the audience vibe as they took special moments to go way out out into the exploration jam space, with return to the familiar at the exact moments the audience was becoming puzzled. Love it. Loved the push push wordplay crazy talk. So much fun. My personal highlight was the light. Wow oh man oh man. Sweet. The jam in Light took me somewhere... feeling like a marionette puppet happily happily played and dancing while attached with guitar and bass strings. I very much enjoyed the feel of it. good times. Let’s all do this again soon. …and thank you Philip for letting me say a little word.
Phil Harrison: As much as it seems second nature to hit "skip" when we see "Possum" on the setlist, don't sleep on this particular version. With lots of good and varied "Type I" jamming before a rousing peak, this "Possum" bears similarity to many of the better pre-'93 versions, and is likely the most interesting "Type I" version played in 3.0.
“Twist” is yet another notable and impressive jam from the stellar Fall '13 Tour. The upbeat "HOSE"-like jamming that emerges places this "Twist" in good company with Reading's "Down with Disease" and Halloween's "Carini." But this "Twist" also includes the fun and very Phishy jam on "Under Pressure," which thankfully diminishes and returns to more feel-good melodic jamming.
Parker Harrington: Some jams, some moments, some songs perfectly capture the essence of a tour, a year, or a place in the band's history. While not necessarily the "best," they just become synonymous with a particular era and can instantly take you back to that time upon subsequent listens long in the future. I have scores of songs and jam segments that do just that: transport me back to 1989, Spring 1990, Horn Tour, Winter 1995, Summer 1997, etc. etc. Perhaps there will be no jam that becomes my "go-to" when I want to relive the glory of Fall 2013 tour than the “Twist” jam. It has so many of the components that I love about Phish: great jamming, humor, contributions from every member and pure Phishy fun. Yet it was so much more. It captured beautifully what Phish has been doing to make this such a memorable tour: seamless communication and band interplay, loose, free-flowing playing WITH precision AND purpose, seemingly perfect jam lengths (not rip corded and not meandering), not to mention fantastic Set II openers. I've listened to this “Twist” probably five times since last night and can't get enough. While likely not the single best “Twist” ever, it certainly was engaging and "in the moment" and perfectly helped punctuate the penultimate show of the fantastic, but far too short, tour.
Dan Purcell: The pressure was off and it showed from the start. I'm not inside the band's heads, but I get the sense that the Halloween tradition had become a burden to them. At the same time, they were genuinely nervous about how the fans would react to hearing new Phish music and not a cover album. Trey's repeated, profuse thank-yous to the crowd bordered on an apology. But really they had no need to fear, because we love them. And last night was the performance of a band that was secure in their position. Bookended by left-field "Shaft" quotes harkening back to the legendary 12/9/95 Albany "YEM," Friday night had all the energy that Thursday sometimes lacked. The long, playful "Twist" cycled from one blissful major key to the next and dropped into "Under Pressure" for a silly Fishman scat workout. It was arguably the jam of the tour, and this is really saying something these days. "Jibboo" featured high-energy chording from Trey that conjured (though of course didn't match) the legendary 2001 TAB performance at the nearby Tower Theater. And then the "Makisupa," well ... If you're at all like me, this sort of silliness-for-its-own sake is a big part of what keeps you coming back to see this band again and again. The gratitude of the crowd was palpable throughout the generous and terrific "Sally" encore. This has been a fantastic, standard-setting tour and it'll be sad to see it end. But I can't wait for the payoff tonight.
Steve Paolini: The obvious place to start with last night's show is the "Twist," as deservedly so. It's one of the top 5 versions of the song as well as being a likely top 5 jam of 2013. The stretch of songs from "Twist" through "Light" is as good as you could ask for. Here's the thing though -- it really didn't come as a surprise. Even though they still (regrettably) haven't turned on the type-II improv spigot in the first set, it was obvious from the outset that tonight was going to be a good night, for Trey, in particular. The "Possum" stands out for me. The predictability of "Possum" has become something of a joke among fans and even the band (e.g. "Ha Ha Ha" > "Possum" on 7/20/13) these days. But this version features a far more patient, cerebral solo from Trey than is usually the case. Throw in things like the "Shaft" quotes in "Runaway Jim," the shredding of the third song "Sand" and the cleanest take on "Sugar Shack" maybe ever, and it was clear that Trey brought his 'A' game last night. A fantastic second set was a foregone conclusion, it was just a matter of what they would play.
Chris Bertolet: I couldn't have been the only person who wondered for a split second whether we were about to get a full-blown "Bertha" during the blissed section of "Twist," right? Such a free, fun, and essential version, and a manifestion of the focus and command the band is coming with every single night right now. A truly electric tour, and I feel lucky to have recap duty tonight. I'll probably ramble on.